Today Israel has banned Arab parties from running in upcoming elections – Haaretz – Israel News. I had thought of writing of this possibility yesterday, but just hoped that it wouldn’t happen.
So Israel has further damaged its democracy, in a time of fear and heightened emotions because of the military operations in Gaza. A democracy cannot allow the oppression or stifling of a minority. The Arab citizens of Israel are not being permitted to express themselves politically as they would like. The effect of this is likely to further alienate Israel’s Arab population and increase tensions with the Jewish majority.
It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of the right wing. They claim that the Arab citizens are a ‘fifth column’. I think this is a disgusting claim, but honestly, if the government continues to delegitimize the political expression of Arabs, the problems between the two groups may increase.
Other than the Arab parties, the only party to be banned in Israel is Meir Kahane’s Kach party. Kahane was a man on a racist platform who advocated violence against Arabs. There is no comparison at all between the parties. It seems to me that right-wing parties like Yisrael Beitenu is not so different from Kach. I am not in favor of banning any party or in censorship. However, Kach was banned because of its incitement to racism, and Yisrael Beitenu does the same thing with its condemnation of Israel’s Arabs.
Unfortunately, it was not only Yisrael Beitenu responsible for this vote. I am not clear on what the breakdown was by party, but at least some Knesset members of Kadima supported it, and it seems that the same goes for Labor, which is supposed to be the liberal party. Israel is hurting itself and its democracy more than it is hurting any Arab politicians.